8 Months of Beach Riding ~ the Moonlander and the Damage Done

Last December, I received my Surly Moonlander and since then…I’ve done my best to ride the hell out of it. Snow, sand, mud, slurm and salt, all ridden, without a care in the world. Due to the lack of snow last winter, my fattie has seen more than it’s fair share of beach riding over the last 8 months. I don’t keep a computer on my bike, so I can’t tell you how many miles, but let’s just say a lot! We’ve gotten numerous questions about, what beach riding does to components and we hope to shed some light on that in this article. I have to admit that these results are not a very scientific representation, considering, I didn’t keep track of the mileage or the hours spent beach riding, but I have a fairly accurate timeline of when I replaced parts, leading up to the overhaul that happened at the bike’s eight month mark at the beginning of August.

After four months of beach riding, I replaced the chain and cassette. With the kind of riding that I do, this didn’t alarm me at all. The fact is, that I’m happy with the way the stock Shimano drive train, that came on the Moonlander, has performed. Somewhere back in the late 90’s I had become a Sram fan and this was my first Shimano equipped mountain bike for over a decade. The Mircroshift thumb shifters are a big part of  why I like the ML’s shifting. While I was at it, I took the stock external bottom bracket out for a good cleaning and re-installed it, with plenty of Phil Wood grease. This was in March of this year.

At the 6 month mark, I noticed some side-to-side play in the bottom bracket. I removed the bottom bracket and after cleaning it up, determined that I should replace it. I purchased the genuine Surly replacement BB and things were as good as new! (well, they actually were new). At the same time the Welgo flat pedals that came off of another bike before they landed on the Moonie, began to click and showed some minor play, but I just chose to ignore that, for the moment.

In July, I planned a fat-packing trip to the UP of Michigan, so I replaced the chain and cassette and gave the whole bike a good inspection. I replaced the BB7’s brake pads at this point and after the trip, sprung for new rotors as well. During the preparation for the trip, I noticed that the bearings in both wheels felt pretty rough, but there wasn’t enough time to do much more than a cone adjustment before the trip, so I decided to cross my fingers and pedal harder. I also noted that the jockey pulleys on my rear deraileur looked peculiar. The teeth of both pulleys were worn down to points, making them look like ninja throwing stars. (take a look at your own fat-bike’s) The bike still shifted fine, but I made a note to look into it after the trip. On the first day of the trip, while wrestling my loaded bike over a log jam, on the beach, I ripped the cable and housing out of the shifter and mangled the ferrule pretty good. I decided to let that ride and the bike shifted ok, for the rest of the trip.

After I came back from Michigan, I replaced the cable and housing with a Gore Ride-On combo to fix the damage that I had done and took a closer look at my hubs. My surly front hub was cruchy, but the rear XT hub was….Extra Crunchy. By the time I took them into see my mechanic, Dr. Huber, it was too late to save the rear hub. The front Surly hub has replaceable sealed cartridge bearings, that were able to be replaced, but the inner race on the rear XT hub had become scored and pitted and could not be replaced. I’m currently on the waiting list for a Hope rear hub to be transplanted as soon as possible. The hope will be able to be rebuilt, when the time comes.

Rear derailleur jockey pulleys are not supposed to look like this. Surprisingly…. the ML still shifts pretty well, but I ‘m going to replace them with a set of red anodized aluminum pulleys that I ordered from jerseycycles.com. I could have easily raided my derailleur grave yard for a set of replacement pulleys, but I wanted to see how these aluminum ones would hold up in comparison to the OEM parts. The fancy new pulley set  features sealed cartridge bearings and come in a variety of colors (check it out)! I just learned that Hope is coming out with their own anodized aluminum jockey pulley, for 2013, featuring Stainless steel sealed roller bearings. Available in a rainbow of colors. Those might be a good option for your own deraileur’s O’haul, when the time comes.

By the end of the 8 month test period, the hand-me-down Wellgo pedals that I mentioned earlier were still clicking along. The bearing play was about a sixteenth of an inch and I wager that I could continue to ride them that way for a long time as long as I didn’t mind the clicking noise that they make. When I started to look at flat pedals, I was amazed at how many there are, from which to choose! The prices of all of these choices go from $12-$199. Pedals take a ton of abuse, so I wanted something built strong and with sealed cartridge bearings to keep them running smooth even after wet sandy beach rides.

Helva Pedals – pictured with an orange spindle nut, but will actually come with a black anodized nut.

It was my good luck to get a chance to ride a set of 45 NRTH Heiruspecs flat pedals at the Salsa demo we reported on, a couple of weeks ago. That led to an opportunity to test a set of their Helva – razor thin profile – platform pedals. When these pedals hit the market, you’ll be able to buy replacement pin kits in seven different colors to customize the look. The colors are: red, blue, green, orange, silver, black, and pewter. I chose black to compliment the Moonlander’s – deep space, color scheme.

the test helvas with the pins murdered out


Dr. Huber delivered my wheel with its new hope hub, in time to get ready for the big gnome round up and fat-bike gathering, next weekend!  Having replaced every other bearing in the bike, you’re probably asking, “what about the headset?” Admirably, the (oem) stock Cane Creek headset is still silky smooth. I have to say that I really love my Moonlander. This bike has taken me to some pretty incredible places…the bike (flat out) rocks! Like HARD Rock! Like the opposite of Captain & Tenile…..For me the Moonlander has been a game changer. So before we tally up the pile o’parts that we wore out, let me state for the record: “this article is not an indictment of any of the components that have worn out along the way, rather a case study of what you might encounter if you expose your fat-bike to (fresh) water and sand in conjuction with some pretty lazy bike maintenance. I could have saved my hub, had I rebuilt it at the first sign of trouble, but sh#t happens, right?

Here’s the list of components consumed during 8 months of riding my moonie like I stole it:

2 – cassettes

2 chains

2 deraileur jockey pulleys

1 set front hub bearings

1 rear hub

1 set brake pads

1 set brake rotors

1 bottom bracket

*rear cable and housing

The front chain-rings will probably be the next thing to go along with another cassette and chain before winter. (It’s a never ending cycle) and all part of life’s rich pageant.


About Gomez 2576 Articles
Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.


  1. So the expensive dirty secret of all those awesome beach ride photos revealed! Great write up. I hope all those hub deep water riders and sand tourists take heed. Check out Wipperman/Connix for a chain. SRAM chains are the worst in my opinion,and you may save a cassette over time with a Wipperman/Connix

  2. I have owned this set of White Industries titanium axle hubs since 1997. I rode them very hard for about three years, and never had an issue with them. I was away from the sport for a while, and recently rebuilt my old bike and got back into it. I rebuilt the hubs, and with a $12 parts order with White Industries (which unlike most manufacturers from the time I bought these still exists), replaced the pawl springs, re-oiled the hubs, and they were good as new. These are lifetime hubs. They are dead simple inside, and the manufacturer supports their product. Expensive, but well worth it. I would buy them again in a second, but will never need to.

  3. Interesting article! I like the ninja star pulleys. I wonder why pulleys even have teeth. The stone age Schwinn Varsity I rode for years had round pulleys. Maybe someone before me wore the teeth off them. 😉

    Why not collect duplicate parts when you buy this type of bike (severe off-road bicycle) such as rust-proof chains, low-$ derailleurs, bottom brackets, and duplicate hubs so you can just rebuild the wheel with the same bits and not have to pay shop labor or calculate spokes.

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